It’s nearly the end of the summer holidays and every self employed person I know with kids went kind of crazy about a week ago, at the end of their tether. I’ve read so many social media threads this last week that start “I need to get some work done but I’m neglecting my kids, the poor things, they’ve not had any of my time…” and each time I’m thinking, stop with it, stop with the guilt. I know, with my son all grown up, it’s easy for me to say, but I’ve lived it and come out the other side. Here’s a slightly edited and tidied up version of what I’ve said on one such post:
This mother guilt thing drives me crazy. We’re so ingrained with it, and all the standards we’re supposed to reach are impossible and contradictory. Lets agree to not feel it anymore.
If our children are safe and warm and well fed, and have emotional support and love and are allowed to be themselves and they get to learn responsibility, and they get to spend some time with us, then that is enough.
Children don’t need our attention 100% of the time. They need to have time when they are a bit bored, or having to fend for themselves activities-wise (I’m not suggesting you leave them home alone!), children need to learn how to occupy themselves and how to initiate activities. It’s a healthy part of growing up.
I see so much pressure on parents to be constantly doing something with their kids – taking them to this activity, doing that activity, having family time, all the time, and I see frazzled unfulfilled parents and stifled kids. To my mind, that’s not such a great goal to be aiming for.
If we sometimes crack on with some work and let them sort themselves out, we’re not letting them down. Rather we’re teaching our children resilience and self reliance and giving them space to do their own thing. We should be proud that we’ve somehow managed to create a balance of doing all that and still being fully rounded adults ourselves with our own identities and interests and skills and professions alongside parenting.
So less of the mother guilt and more of the mother pride this afternoon! I’m saying this from the safety of having survived single-motherhood and all the guilt in the world, but now, having a grown-up son, and knowing that he’s independent and responsible, and loving, and happy despite me never having time in the holidays to spend with him, I know all that guilt was a waste of time and energy. He’s just fine. And so will yours be.